MATTHEW Screech can look to a pair of former Dragons teammates for inspiration when he attempts to grasp his unexpected chance in the Wales boilerhouse.

The 31-year-old from Porth will win his second cap and make his first Test start when lining up against South Africa at Twickenham tomorrow afternoon.

He’s joining forces with Rodney Parade partner Ben Carter for one of the most daunting challenges in professional rugby – the duo go toe-to-toe with a pair of titans in double world cup winners Eben Etzebeth and Franco Mostert.

With a raft of locks unavailable it is a terrific opportunity for Screech, a man who has established himself as a dependable and durable performer at club rugby.

Whether he can make the big step up is yet to be seen, but he can take heart from the way that others performed when they were shock call-ups to the Wales second row.

CHANCE: Andrew Coombs impressed for Wales after earning a Test opportunityCHANCE: Andrew Coombs impressed for Wales after earning a Test opportunity

Eyebrows were raised when Andrew Coombs, Screech’s second row partner on his Dragons debut, got a chance in 2013 but the former Newport RFC captain grasped it.

The tenacious forward went on to win 10 caps in a career that was cruelly ended early by injury.

Cory Hill was informed of a late call-up to the Wales squad when he was in Krasnodar after the Dragons’ embarrassing defeat to Enisei-STM in 2016.

He would go on to become a key figure under Warren Gatland in the build-up to the 2019 World Cup, and will no doubt be of great help to Screech this week while rehabbing a calf problem.

Coombs and Hill grabbed their chances, Screech must do the same.

The stalwart isn’t a flashy player and doesn’t rack up the yards with eye-catching charges - the URC official stats have him as making 24 successful carries for 45 metres in 14 games this season - but he is a grafter who puts himself about and is solid at the set piece.

Of course, more than that is needed at international level but Screech has a crack at showing he should be in the mix to join Will Rowlands, Dafydd Jenkins and Adam Beard in the coming years.

Part of his task is to climb above Carter, who has youth on his side but needs to add more big moments around the park, in the Wales pecking order.

INFLUENTIAL: Dragons lock Matthew ScreechINFLUENTIAL: Dragons lock Matthew Screech (Image: Huw Evans Agency)

Screech heads to Twickenham after a solid season in a Dragons team that struggled.

The Dragons’ best year of recent times (and that is a low bar) was 2020/21 under Dean Ryan and Screech was a big part of that, scoring five tries and getting in the thick of it.

He needs to get back to those levels and a strong summer can be the springboard for that – and he doesn’t want it to be Twickenham and out.

For that reason, Screech might well be pleased that he’s up against the very best.

“If you are in that Welsh pack, it’s unbelievably exciting,” said forwards coach Jonathan Humphreys about going up against the Boks’ big hitters.

“It's a fantastic opportunity for some who have been on the fringes and some who are in for the first time. If you can stand up and stand out then you have a big future.

“Screechy was with us in the Six Nations and it’s the first time he has really experienced this, so it’s a huge opportunity for him especially.”

Number eight Aaron Wainwright will be putting his head between Screech and Carter at the scrum and is relishing the chance to join forces with the stalwart on the biggest stage.

STALWART: Matthew Screech on the charge for the DragonsSTALWART: Matthew Screech on the charge for the Dragons

“He gets through a lot of work. His carrying ability is very good and he is very physical around the park,” said the influential back rower.

“He puts himself about, and I am excited to get out there with Matthew and Ben. It is a great opportunity for them to put their hands up.”

Screech has been a consistent performer over 10 campaigns at Rodney Parade – you know what you are going to get from a forward who will bring up his double century next season.

Now he needs to find another level but, at the very least, the lock is moving out of Wales’ one-cap club.

Screech earned his international bow in 2021 through hard graft and now he has another big occasion to embrace and enjoy.

Put in a 7 or 8/10 performance against Etzebeth and Mostert and there is every chance that a third cap will come for a man who will take to the Twickenham field with so much Rodney Parade goodwill behind him.